These letters were written by Norton William Campbell (1835-1868), a carpenter from Duquoin, Perry county, Illinois, who entered the service as a sergeant on 20 April 1861 at DuQuoin, Illinois, to serve three month in Co. G, 12th Illinois Infantry. After this brief stint, he reenlisted on 1 August 1861 to serve three years in the same company and regiment (the “1st Scotch Regiment”). At the time of his enlistment, he was described as 26 years old, standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a dark complexion—a native of New York State. In the 1850 US Census, 16 year-old Norton was enumerated in the farm household of William Campbell (1806-1874) and Catharine Wilson (1808-1886) of Pinckney, Lewis county, New York. I can’t find a biographical sketch or obituary for Norton to confirm if these were his parents or not; his war letters mention only his mother and state that she was living in Sauk county, Wisconsin, in 1861. By the time of the 1860 US Census, Norton had relocated to Perry county, Illinois, where he was enumerated in a boarding house and working as a carpenter.
Of Norton’s service in the 12th Illinois, I have been unable to find very little information save what we learn from the letters themselves. The Chicago Daily Tribune of 17 April 1862 lists Sergt. Norton Campbell as one of fifteen members of Co. G being wounded in the Battle of Shiloh. In that same newspaper article, Joel Grant (1816-1873), the chaplain of the 12th Illinois reported that, “Most of the losses [to the regiment] occurred the first day. The first attack upon us was made by a large force of rebels, whom, as we viewed them through the timber, we thought might be our own troops. While we were endeavoring to satisfy ourselves on this point, they poured a deadly volley upon us, that dispelled our delusion, and brought us at once into the realities of war.”
Indeed, Norton’s Letter 16 informs us that he was wounded wounded at Shiloh but it must have been a mere flesh wound: “The wound I got at Pittsburg has got well but it leaves a nice scar.” He also informs us in that same letters that following the Battle of Shiloh, he was in command of his company because all of the commissioned officers were either wounded or sick.
Norton wrote the letters to his friend, Sarah Ann Rinehart (1843-1879), the daughter of Samuel Rinehart (1820-1899) and Harriet Eunice Reed (1823-1849) of Louisville, Clay county, Illinois. We learn from Norton’s letters that four years previous to the war, he and Sarah—who would have only been about 14 at the time—had a relationship but that it grew distant when he moved away. Clearly he was attempting to rekindle that relationship when he began to write her while in the service. We don’t have any of Sarah’s letter to Norton so we can only surmise from the content of Norton’s letters that she doubted his sincerity from the beginning of their war-time correspondence and only grew more and more convinced that he was either not the love of her life, or that she was unwilling to wait longer for the war to end before taking a husband. Though subsequent letters were probably exchanged between them, Sarah Ann chose to marry John Wesley Young (1845-1879) in Clay county, Illinois, on 22 February 1863. The Youngs lived in Clay County, Illinois, where John labored as a farmer until 1870 when they moved to Independence county, Arkansas. They had several children all of whom (at least five) died as infants. Sarah died on 16 February 1879 giving birth to her sixth child, Thomas Jefferson Young (1879-1946). Two days later, Sarah’s husband died and the orphaned child was raised by his uncle Joseph Henry Young. I could not find an account of Thomas’s death but the timing suggests he died of a broken heart or suicide.
Spared & Shared readers are also encouraged to reference the 1861-62 Diary of Frederick Hammerly of Co. B, 12th Illinois Infantry while reading these letters published earlier this year.
Readers may also enjoy, “The Dying Request: An Irish Soldier Seeks to Secure his Daughter’s Future at Shiloh, 1862.”
June 20, 1861
My Dear Friend Sarah,
I received your welcome letter. I was glad to hear from you yet i did not know whether you would write to me or not as I had neglected writing to you for so long. But Sarah I am well and hope this will find you the same. I am one of Uncle Sam’s boys now and we see some rough times in camp life and some pleasant times but the time will be soon when we will be called into battle and we are all ready and anxious to get at the traitors that have dishonored our country and caused all this trouble and many of us no doubt will die on the battlefield. But if it should be my lot, I know it will be in a good cause. I love the stars and stripes and I will help to protect it. I love Liberty and Union and I want it just as our forefathers handed it down to us and we will have it so. And Sarah, if this war last three years or 10 years, I will be in it all the time if I am alive and able for I love my country.
But Sarah, I should love to see you but I cannot get away now. If I could see you but one hour, it would be some satisfaction to me. I could explain all the reasons that I have not seen you for nearly four years. It was not because I did not want to see you nor because I had forgotten you but I have not. No, Sarah, if I am not with you my heart is, and I shall live in hopes of seeing you yet once more. We was happy in each others company, for we loved each other. It is so still. I can say my heart in not changed. The beautiful face I love so stand up on it and will ever be my guiding start in the hours of peril and danger.
And Sarah, if I should never be permitted to see you again, may God bless you is my prayer. But I know you have plenty of friends to keep you like a lady as you are and had I thought that I could [have] taken care of you as I ought, I should’ve been with you long ago. But I have done well in the last two years and may yet live to see peace and enjoy it once more.
We are under marching orders now but we don’t know where we will go to and we will probably stay here six or seven days yet. We think we will be sent to Missouri near St. Louis. When I wrote to you, I was in Camp Bissell, Caseyville, Illinois, but we left the next day. After I wrote you, we went down to the Missouri River on the steamer Louisiana to Cairo where we are now. Cairo is well fortified & the whole southern Confederacy could not hardly take it. But I must close.
I will get my likeness taken and I will send it to you soon. I will write often and hope to hear from you often and let me be where I may, I shall always remember you with kindness. I remember all the past. They are as yesterday to me. God bless you. My respects to your friends. Write soon. From your long absent lover or friend, — Norton W. Cambell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois, 12th Regiment, Company G, In care of Capt. Brookings
June 28, 1861
I am pleased to hear from you and that you was well. I am well and hope this will find you the same. I was of a company of three hundred that was out on a pleasure excursion yesterday up the Mississippi River and at Birds Point. There are two thousand of our troops at Birds Point in Missouri opposite of Cairo. We had a pleasant trip and enjoyed our ride very much.
We expect an attack on Cairo soon now from the traitors. I am in the 12th Regiment under Colonel John McArthur—as fine a man as lives. This regiment will son be sworn in for the war or three years and then we will get a furlough home for a week or ten days and I shall try and come to Indianapolis if possible and go to Clinton too if possible. I shall be in Cairo till after the Fourth of July. There will be a Grand Ball here on the Fourth and we expect to have a good time in general on that day.
Sarah, I will send you my likeness in this letter and you will please keep it in remembrance of me for if I do not see you in the next three weeks to come, I may never see you. My likeness looks black but it is because I am sunburnt and tanned very bad but it is part of a soldier’s life. You must excuse this letter for I have to sit down on the ground and any way to get down to write and it is blotted up so that I am ashamed of it but you can read it maybe. If you can’t—if I ever see you down here—I will read it for you.
Sarah, you appear to think that since we parted in Clinton, I have found someone that I loved and had forgotten you. You say you have a god chance to marry. Now I say, if you love anyone and want to marry them, do so. I could not blame you and I would love to know that you was happy with someone. There is no knowing where I will be when this war is over but God bless you. My best wishes are with you. I hope to hear from you often. We will not have much fighting to do till after Congress on the Fourth of July.
I will close. Hoping to hear from you soon and Sarah, let me go where I may, I shall always remember you with pleasure and I hope I can see you before we start South. But no more. Give my respects to your friends and please write soon.
This from your long absent, — Nort
— Norton W. Campbell, Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois, 12th Regiment, Company G in care of Capt. C. H. Brookings.
July 6, 1861
My Dear Sarah,
I received your ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. I am well and hope you are enjoying the same blessing. The 12th Regiment has not been sworn in for three years yet but I think we will be tomorrow. The Fourth passed off very pleasantly here and general good order through the whole camp and the celebration of the Fourth will long be remembered in Cairo. In the morning at sunrise they fired a salute of 36 guns from the six different batteries and noon and at sunset the same. In the afternoon, there was a brigade review of all the troops.
We marched through the main streets of the city and then took to the parade ground in the evening. They had some splendid fireworks and speeches and everything went off quiet and nice. And if we had of been in Virginia and had the chance, we could of done some of the best fighting on that day that was ever done. The troops here are anxious to get a chance at the traitors and if we ever do get at them, we will conquer or die. And Sarah, every time I put a cartridge in my gun, I will think of you for if you are making cartridges, make them of good powder and lead and we will make good use of them if we ever get the chance—and I hope we wll.
I read the President’s Message this morning and I suppose you have saw it before this and it suits me to a hair and I think he will soon put us where we will have some work to do. But I think Jeff Davis is trembling in his boots now and would give all he ever had if he never had spoke of secession. But that do us. We want to torture him to death before we quit. we want to show them that breaking up this government is not as easy as they imagined it would be. The stars and stripes shall be my banner as long as I live and I will help to maintain it.
And Sarah, God bless you. You are a lady and cannot fight but I am glad to hear that you love the Union enough to make cartridges for the soldiers and while you are doing so, remember that there is none in the army that loves you whose heart is with you and his country, and I would love to see you now but whether I shall ever have that pleasure or not, I cannot say now. But if I live to see this war settled, and peace once more, then I will see you. I can only say God bless you wherever you are and if I ever done wrong by you, I hope to live to make all right with you again.
My mother lives in Wisconsin, Sauk county, in White Mound. She was well the last I heard from her. She seemed proud to know she had a son that loved his country and was not afraid to fight for his rights. She bid me go and do my duty like a man. God bless my mother. I will fight for my liberty and hers and do my duty.
Sarah, I am sitting in the woods in a beautiful shade and writing this letter on a log. I got out of the camp so that I could be all alone for awhile to write to you and while I am sitting here, the past hours that I have passed with you years ago are fresh in my mind. Not a word has been forgotten by me and if I have not wrote to you as often as I should nor have not come to see you as I said I would, still I have not forgotten you. I have always thought of you and remembered you. You have been near my heart and I have always been in hopes that [I could someday] take care of one so worthy as you are of a good and kind husband. I have tried hard to lay up something to take care of you with so that I might be worthy of you but I have had a good deal of bad luck in the last four years. But still I am now pretty well to do in this work. I have laid up about two thousand dollars and when I volunteered, I had me a nice house about half finished and everything comfortable and was in hopes that I should see better days. But I shall have no pleasure till we have peace once more. Only in serving my country to put down this rebellion and that I will do with pleasure. And I will take pleasure in writing to you often as I can and hope that I shall still live to see you again.
If you think I care nothing for you, I can’t help it now. I can only speak for myself and you can judge for yourself. If I should fall on the battlefield, you shall know it. If I live, you shall see me. I am prepared for whatever my fate may be. God will protect the right. The star spangled banner—long may it wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
But I must close and hope you will excuse this pencil writing. It is better than none. You say you got my likeness. Keep it in remembrance of me. I have yours yet but it is at home locked up in my trunk. You will please give my best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble 1 and I hope to hear from you soon.
The health of the men here is generally good. There has been but very little sickness in the camp yet the weather is very warm here. But no more. May God bless you is all that I can say. Whether I can come and see you when I get a furlough home or not, I cannot promise now but if possible, I will. So goodbye. I remain yours truly, — Norton Wm. Campbell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois. 12th Regiment, Company G
1 In the 1860 US Census, 16 year-old Sarah Ann Reinhart (1843-1879) was enumerated as a servant in the household of John W. Hebble (1823-1871) and Hannah Hagan (1829-1911) who were innkeepers in Indianapolis. The Hebbles were married in 1846 and came to Indianapolis from Pennsylvania in 1855 and engaged in the hotel business near the Union Station Depot. They later were the proprietors of the Germania Hotel (still standing today and called the Slippery Noodle Inn) at South and Meridian Streets. The Hebble’s had two boys, Benjamin Mursa Hebble (1854-1902) and George M. Hebble (1860-1932)—the latter known as the “blind musician.”
July 29, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I arrived in camp the 26th and everything was exciting for they look every day for an attack on Cairo and Birds Point. There is fifteen thousand secessionists within 15 miles of Birds Point and there is only five thousand troops in Cairo at this time but we are ready and willing to try them. They may not make the attack just now but we have good reason to believe they will soon. There will be more troops here in a few days.
We had quite an accident on the Illinois Central Railroad the day I came to Cairo. Two passenger trains run off the track. One tipped over and was torn all to pieces. The other was not broke up so bad. There was about 60 of our men in the one that was broke up the worst. I had just stepped out of the car on the platform of the other car not more than a minute before the car upset but there was no one killed but some badly bruised. It was the greatest wonder in the world that half of them was not killed. It was about 60 miles from Cairo.
Sarah, I received your letter and your likeness and I thank you a thousand times for it. I have it on my bosom and will wear it there for your sake. Whether we shall ever see each other again or not, I cannot tell. When I was there with you, I could not think of half I wanted to say to you and I was sorry that I could not stay longer with you but I was happy while I was there but I can’t say that I am now. But I will try and enjoy myself the nest I can and if I am spared till this war is over, I will see you again and make a longer visit.
Please give my respects to Mr. & Mrs. Hebble and those other folks—I forget their names, and try to enjoy yourself the best you can. You have got such a good place to stay at that you can’t help but be contented. I think Mrs. Hebble is such a good, pleasant woman. It seemed like home to me. You must be good to her for I know she is good to you.
But I must close for this time. I can’t hardly write here, the boys make so much fuss in the camp. But I will write soon again and hope to hear from you soon. So God bless you. No more this time. From your own, — Norti W. Campbell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Ill., 12th Regt., Company G, in care of Capt, C. H. Brookings
August 11th 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I received your letter this morning and was very sorry to hear that you was sick but I hope by the time this reaches you, by the help of the kind hand of Providence, that you will be restored to health again. I would be glad to be with you and comfort you in your hours of trouble and afflictions but if I cannot be with you, my whole heart is and my best wishes are for your good and God bless you, Sarah. I wish I could say that I was well but I cannot. I have been sick with the typhoid fever for two days and it is all that I can do to sit up to write to you. I thought I would not tell you that I was sick, I could not help but write to you, The doctor thinks I am better today and I hope I shall soon be up again and in fighting order.
A few days ago we were ordered to go to Cape Girardeau in Missouri as soon as possible. We heard that the town was attacked and was in danger and we started with one thousand men and got there that evening at 4 o’clock and was all disappointed for everything was quiet, There is three thousand of our troops stationed at that place now and it is considered safe. We stayed till the next day at 11 o’clock when we got on the boat and returned to Cairo again. We all enjoyed our trip very much and would of felt better if we had of had chance of a fight, but I think we will have one before long and I hope I shall be able to be with them.
Cairo is safe now and we have no fears of an attack now. With the fortifications and breastworks that we have now, we can hold the place against forty thousand rebels.
But I must close. Give my respects to all of the friends. I know Mrs. Hebble will take good care of you while you are sick. Please write soon ad may God bless you, Sarah, and protect you and restore you to health. No more. Write soon. This from your ever affectionate, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell, Camp McArthur, Cairo, Ill 12th Regiment, Company G. in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
[Note: This letter was written by Pvt. William J. Dingle of Sullivan, Moultrie county, Illinois, who enlisted at the age of 28 at Decatur on 6 August 1861 to serve three years in Co. B, 41st Illinois Infantry. He was described as a a 5′ 8″ tall, dark haired, blue-eyed carpenter.]
September 30, 1861
Yours of a recent date is received. Norton W. Campbell is stationed at Smithland in this state. I saw him some eight days since in this place. He was quite well.
Yours respectfully, — W[illiam] J. Dingle
Camp Smith 1
October 27, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I received your letter of the 14th and was glad to hear from you and I answer it with pleasure. I am well and hope this will find you enjoying the same good blessing and hope you will excuse this pencil writing for I had no pen handy.
Sarah, the last time I wrote to you I was sick at Birds Point. I was pretty sick for a short time and I got a furlough to go home. I went home and stayed till I got well and then returned to Birds Point. Since that time I have been moved around considerably though I have never been in any battle yet. I am now in Smithland, Kentucky. We have a beautiful camp, are getting the place well fortified, and we are in hopes that we may yet have a chance at the rebels.
We are getting tired of this kind of soldiering. There was a small fight 25 miles above here on the Cumberland River at a place called Eddyville day before yesterday. The gunboat Conestoga and three company of infantry went up from Paducah and surrounded the rebels, killed 15, and took about 50 prisoners and captured many horses and mules and quite a number of guns and routed them without the loss of one man. [See Federal Expedition to Eddyville and skirmish at Saratoga, Kentucky]
But Sarah, it will come our turn to have a battle some of these days and then you shall hear from us. But Sarah, I have no reason for not writing to you—only my own carelessness and shiftlessness. I have not wrote to anyone for a long time and I am ashamed of it for it was not because I did not want to hear from you or because I do not love you for Sarah, you are the idol of my heart. I wear your likeness on my bosom everyday and wherever I go, it shall go. And if I fall on the battlefield, your likeness shall be with me to the last moment.
Mr. J. B. Clintner was here yesterday from Clinton. His folks were well. He saw your likeness on my breast and said you looked as natural as life and I would like to see you this day to tell you all, but I have to wait and hoe for the best. We are all pretty hearty here now and I feel better than I have for several years. We have plenty to eat and plenty to wear and plenty of money and when mine gives out, I have got more to home and hope to live through this war and be permitted to see you again.
Sarah, please give my love to all the Hebble family. I often think of them. If I ever come across any of your Indiana friends, I shall be glad to make their acquaintance. I hope to hear from you son. May God bless you, Sarah, and watch over you for my sake. Mr. [William J.] Dingle is here in Smithland in the 41st Regt. Illinois. He is well and sends his love to you. No more. Please write soon. This from your affectionate, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
Direct to Camp Smith, Smithland, Kentucky, 12th Regt. of Illinois Volunteers, Company G, in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
1 Camp Smith was located at Smithland, twelve miles above Paducah at the junction of the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers.
Camp Smith 1
November 19, 1861
I have just received your welcome letter and I hasten to answer it and I am glad to hear that you are well and I am glad that I can say that I am enjoying good health and we have everything to make us comfortable for this time of the year. We have got a beautiful place for a camp and the best fortifications in the West. The troops here are very healthy and look as well as any that I have ever seen.
We have never been in a battle yet but don’t know how soon we will have to try our courage for there is fifteen hundred rebels only fifteen miles from here and we look for an attack now every hour. We have only seven hundred troops here but we can whip ten times our number with the fortifications we have got here and I would be glad to see them come for we have got some Yankee pills here that don’t set will on a secessionist’s stomach and we will give them such a dose that they will be sorry they ever rebelled.
But Sarah, though I am in the army where everything is exciting and hundreds of friends around me, yet I have never forgot you nor the happy hours and months that we passed so sweet and lovingly together. I often think how happy I should be if I could be with you and our country in peace once more but as long as there is rebellion, I must be separated from you though I love you and your very name is sweet to me.
But I also love my country and can you blame me for if we can’t have peace, how can we be happy? But things will not always be so. I look forward for better and happier days. God bless you Sarah. I would love to see you but it is impossible to get a furlough now. If I could, I would come and see you if I could not stay more than one hour. If I can, I will come and see you at Christmas but I will not make any promises for I don’t know where we may be by that time. But let me be where I may, I will always love you and I believe I shall be spared through this war to return to my friends and see many happy days with those I love.
Please give my respects to Mrs. Hebble and all of the family and I will be glad to hear from you often. And may God’s best blessing and kind hand watch over you and protect and comfort you in all your hours of trouble through life and may He yet make you happy with the one you love. So God bless you. No more. Write soon. This from your affectionate — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
To Miss Sarah Reinhart
1 Camp Smith was named after Union General Charles F. Smith under whom the earthworks were built at Paducah.
Camp Chetlain 1
December 6, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I am well at present and hope you are enjoying the same God’s blessing. I am in Paducah now where I shall probably stay till the fleet is ready to go down the Mississippi River. Then I hope I shall be able to go with them and make them such a visit as they deserve in Dixie land and let them know that the stars and stripes cannot be trampled upon as easy as they imagine nor this government broken up as easily as they thought for our boys here are in good health, and when they get among the secessiers they will make them think that so many tigers have been let loose among them to do the will of God and slaughter and rid the world of those black-hearted rebels that have and are still trying to break up the best government that the world ever knew.
Uncle Sam has got the boys to do the work and before they quit, the stars and stripes will wave over all these United States as they have in days gone by and no man will dare to pull it down or molest it. But Sarah, I may not live to see this war ended, nor live to see you again. But I can trust in God and hope for the best and if I fall on the field of battle, it will be an honorable death and you can say that Nort lost his life like a soldier in defense of American liberties and rights.
I would love to come and see you now but I cannot. The commander of the Western Division has given orders that no more furloughs nor leave of absence be given to neither soldiers nor officers so you see that it is impossible for me to get away but if I cannot see you, I can write to you and hear from you and let me be where I may, I will always remember you as one that I love and respect and as one that I have passed many happy days with and hope to be happy with you again. But if we never meet again on earth, I hope we may meet in heaven where parting is no more. I would love to be with you at Christmas. You say you are going to have a party. If I could be there to dance with you, I know we would enjoy ourselves. But as I can’t be, I hope you will enjoy yourself and whilst you are dancing, think how many hours we have enjoyed ourselves in the same way and with such company as Mrs. Hebble, you can’t help but be happy for she is such a good woman. And please give my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family. I hope to hear from you soon.
I have not seen your friend in the Indiana 11th yet but will go and see him in a few days. Everything is quiet around here at present. But i must close. The weather is rather cold here just now but we are pretty well prepared for it. Please write soon.
— Norton W. Campbell
To Miss Sarah Reinhart
Direct to Paducah, Kentucky. Camp Chetlain, Co. G, in care of Capt. G. C. Ward
1 Camp Chetlain was named after Augustus L. Chetlain, the Lt. Colonel of the 12th Illinois.
December 15, 1861
I received your letter and was truly glad to hear from you and that you was well. I am well at present and hope this will find you the same. You said you had not heard from me yet. I am rather surprised at that for I have written you two letters before this and you say you have not received none from me yet. I am sorry for that this has been so, but I hope you will get this. You need not think that I do not write for I will write as often as I can. I love to write to you and I love to hear from you and I would love to see you but I am deprived of that pleasure and probably shall be for a long tome yet.
You said if we was here next spring, you would come down and see me. Sarah, I would be glad to see you at any time and you shall find me a gentleman wherever you meet me. I will not write much this time for I don’t know whether you will get this or not, but if you do, I will write more next time.
Please gibe my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family.
We expect a fight here within 48 hours. Our pickets were run in last night but we are ready and will give them the best we have got in the shop. I will send you the Union Picket Guard every week with pleasure and hope you will get this. So, hoping that I shall live to see you again, I will close. Please write soon. No more. This from your own, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
to Miss Sarah Reinhart
Camp Payne, Paducah, Kentucky
Co. G, 12th Illinois Vols.
in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
December 23, 1861
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and that you was well. I am well and hope this will find you enjoying the same good blessing.
The troops here are all pretty healthy and feel pretty well and are all anxious to move on Columbus [Kentucky]. We all feel confident that we can give them a good thrashing. When I wrote last, I thought we would soon have a fight but the rebels got word and left their camp where they were resting so quietly and it was well for them they did. But everything is quiet here now. Our troops were reviewed here last week and made a fine appearance. They are pretty well drilled and will fight like tigers if they ever get a chance.
Sarah, I should love to spend New Years with you for I know I should enjoy myself, but as I can’t be with you, I hope you will enjoy yourself. I shall not have much of a New Years here. I don’t think there will be anything doing here more than any other day but I live in hopes of seeing better days after the war is over. But till then, I shall be obliged to put up with whatever may happen me and do my duty as a soldier,
There is nothing new to write. Please give my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and to your friend Miss Ellen. As it is late, I will close hoping to hear from you soon. And may God bless you and protect you for my sake. This from your soldier boy, — Norton W. Campbell
January 9, 1862
We have just received orders to march at three o’clock this day and I think we are going to Columbus [Kentucky] but I don’t know for certain. I received your letters from Indianapolis and Germantown. I am well and ready for the fight. How it will turn out, we can’t say but hoping all for the best, I will close for I am in a hurry.
My love to all. I will write as soon as I can again. So God bless you. No more from — Nort
February 3, 1862
The last time I wrote to you I told you we was expecting to fight. We started from Paducah on the 15th of last month—six regiments of infantry and two batteries of light artillery, and nearly one thousand cavalry. The whole force was about eight thousand commanded by General Smith. Our expedition, I think, was to keep reinforcements from Columbus [Kentucky] going to help Zollicoffer at Mill Springs.
We marched 30 miles to Mayfield and then nearly last through Murray and Farmington and to the Tennessee River, 14 miles from Fort McHenry where the rebels have an army of about twelve thousand and well fortified and we all thought that we was a going to attack that fort, but we was disappointed. Nearly every house that we passed was deserted for they were all secesh through that part of the country and as soon as they heard we was coming, they left as fast as possible.
We was seven days in marching to the Tennessee River and on the 8th day we started back towards Paducah and when we found we was not a going to get a fight, you could of heard the boys curse and swear for two miles. But we could not help it and we came back. We marched 125 miles and worse roads and a muddier time, I never saw. We had to march in mud ankle deep for two days and waded a great many places in mud and water up to our waist, In fact, it was as hard a march as has been made in this war. We was gone just eleven days and we rested two days of the time. We had to burn some wagons and a good many tents. The roads was so bad they could haul them and had some horses and mules drowned.
I stood the march well till the last two days when I got so lame that I could not walk. I sprained my ankles and then by marching, they swelled and pained me very bad. They are not hardly well yet, I am well excepting that we have to start on another expedition tomorrow and there will be a large force start this time. There has nine regiments came here today and there is still more coming. There is 8 gunboats here going with the expedition and this time we will get a fight.
Look out for good news soon. We will start tomorrow morning, I think certain. The river has been very high here and our camp has been nearly under water for a week which makes it very disagreeable. The water is falling now.
But I must close for this time. I can only say God bless you, Sarah, till I see you and I hope to live to see you again. Please give my love to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family and write soon, Send to Paducah.
I got a letter from Mother. She is well and sends her love to you. I would of wrote sooner but we have been so busy that I could not. But no more. I will write again as soon as I can. Do God bless you, Sarah. No more this time. Write soon. Pleasant dreams to you from N. W. Campbell
To Susan Reinhart
February 28, 1862
My dear friend Sarah,
I received your letter yesterday and was pleased o hear from you. I am well and still amongst the living. Our regiment has been kept moving for the last two weeks. We left Paducah on the 5th of this month and took Fort Henry and Fort Heiman on the 6th, and on the 12th day we started for Fort Donelson where we arrived at 12 o’clock that night.
On the morning of the 13th, the battle commenced and lasted till the morning of the 16th when the rebels surrendered unconditionally and we marched into the fort at 10 o’clock a.m. I need not write all the particulars of the fight for you no doubt have had it through the papers before now. Our regiment was in the hottest of the battle on Saturday, the 15th, and 31 of our brave men of the 12th Regiment were killed and one hundred wounded. I did not get hurt at all but my comrades were shot by my side. But God bless them—they fought like men though they were nearly worn our for sleep and food.
We were four nights without sleep or tents, and two days and nights without anything to eat and part of the time the ground was covered with snow and it was very cold and we were not allowed to have a bit of fire so you may know that we suffered some but we would of stood it for weeks, or whipped them out of Donelson.
We took 17 thousand prisoners and their arms, and two generals—Buckner and Johnson. Pillows and Floyd was there but they got away and took away several regiments of rebels. They went through Clarksville running for life and telling the people to burn their houses and property and run for the damn Yankees were coming and they run in every direction. But we will give them a bigger scare than that before long.
On the 20th and 21st, there was a great many people at Donelson to see the battleground. Governor [Oliver P.] Morton was there and Governor Yates of Illinois was there. On the 22nd, we went to Clarksville, the town nearly deserted. The rebels had built a nice fort there but it done them no good. Clarksville is a beautiful place. On the 27th we started for Nashville and got here at 12 o’clock at night and we are still on the boat. I don’t know whether we will get off today here or not. The rebels are about thirty-five miles from here fortifying and they are said to have one hundred thousand troops and more coming from Columbus [Kentucky]. They have evacuated Columbus.
I got off from the boat today and went round and took a look at the city of Nashville and it is a beautiful place. I was at the State House—it is a beautiful building—and I was at President James Polk’s house—or his widow’s house. I was at his grave—it is a beautiful place—but still Nashville [is] dead. Every building nearly is shut up and it seems like Sunday. The railroad bridge and the suspension bridge are both burnt and destroyed by the rebels. Coffee is worth one dollar and fifty cents a pound here, and flour twelve dollars a barrel, and boots 18 to 20 dollars a pair, and everything else according. So you can judge whether the southern people have long faces or not. But I tell them they are the ones that caused it and they must stand it and I wish they would all starve and if they don’t, we’ll run them into some corner and shove them into the Gulf. And they begin to wish too that they had not got up this row. The people around here think that the war will be over in less than eight weeks and I think a few more Fort Donelson battles and it will soon be over too.
You said you drank a glass of beer and made a speech for me when you heard we had taken Fort Henry and I think Donelson is worth two glasses. And if I could be with you, I would make you a speech but I still think I shall live till this mess is over and then I will have a good time. And you just tell that gal that don’t want to wait for a soldier that she should not be in a hurry—that soldiers will be in good demand after this war [even] if they are crippled. But that is all right, Sarah. I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner for we have been moving so I could not write. I shall be glad to hear from you soon and often.
Please give my love to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and to all. You said you let the printer have my letter to publish but I don’t know what I wrote that he wanted to print. I got no relics that I can send you but a sprig of cedar that I got on the spot where our company fought. I sent a piece of it home and a piece o my brother. I got a nice sword from a secesh captain and I shall keep it to recollect Fort Donelson.
You spoke of a ring you wanted to send me to wear in honor of Fort Henry. I have wore your likeness on my breast all the time and shall wear it till this war is over, if I live, but if you wish to send a ring in a letter, it will be safe. And if I live, I will bring it to you again. But I must close. We have just received orders to start back down the river again. Please write soon. Direct to Paducah. I will write again as soon as I can. So no more. God bless you. Write soon. Yours now and forever. From your soldier boy, — Nort W. Campbell
Pittsburg [Landing], Tennessee
March 30th 186
My dear Sarah R.,
I am well and hope this may find you the same. Sarah, I wrote you a short time ago that we would leave here in two days and that I would not get a chance to write to you for some time again but for some reason unknown to me, we are here yet and I understand that we will not leave here for some 8 or 10 days and I hope to hear from you before I leave here. 1
The weather is very pleasant and warm here and the troops begin to feel like going into another battle and I think our next battle will be at Corinth, Mississippi—only twenty-five miles from here. I hear that the rebels has over eighty thousand troops at Corinth now but such little squads as that had better leave before we get there and I think they will for they are about played out in this country and our troops have got Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River and I think that the war is nearly on its last legs and we will soon be home.
Everything is quiet around here and Sarah, I would love to be with you now. It seems like an age since I saw you. But whilst I have been away from you, I have been doing my country service. But often have I thought of you and I often think of the happy hours we passed in Clinton. Nothing has clipped my memory from the first hour that I saw you till now, but circumstances known only to myself has kept us from being happily connected together. But hoping there will yet be time to make amends for the past, I will still live in hopes and hope our last days may be our happiest and that we may forget the past and look only to the future.
So God bless you, Sarah. I hope to hear from you soon. Please give my move to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all the family. I will close by saying God protect you. Please write soon. Direct to Paducah. No more. Yours with respect. Your soldier boy, — Nort Wm. Campbell
to Miss Sarah Reinhart
1 According to Lt. Col. Augustus L. Chetlain, “During the three weeks we were in camp [at Pittsburgh Landing prior to the Battle of Shiloh], our men suffered from diarrhea and dysentery, caused by having to use surface water taken from shallow wells.” Chetlain himself was taken with dysentery and sent to Paducah on 5 April 1862—the day before the battle—leaving senior Captain J. R. Hugunin in command of the 12th Illinois (Major Ducat already sick in Paducah). Upon hearing of the battle, Lt. Col. Chetlain attempted to return to the battlefield only to have his horse shot out from under him and then left on foot to lead the regiment for four hours. See “The Recollections of Seventy Years.”
May 7, 1862
I just received your letter of the 22nd and was glad to hear from you and your friend, Mrs. Hebble.
We are 8 miles from Corinth now. The whole army here is moving on to Corinth and Beauregard has a large force there and making preparations to receive us but it will be a death stroke to the rebels. We go to conquer certain. We move slow but sure. General Halleck is here in command and the troops have confidence in him. And Sarah, before this reaches you, we will probably have another hard and bloody battle and be in possession of Corinth.
We have had several skirmishes with the rebels since we started but we drive them wherever we find them. Part of our force is within five miles of Corinth now.
The late Battle of Pittsburg [Landing] was a hard battle and such sights as I saw on the field I never want to see again. But I take things as they come in this war. I run a narrow escape myself for my life but it is alright. I shall be in this fight at Corinth though I am not well nor have not been since the first of April. I am pretty weak but I am better than I was and hope I shall feel well when the battle comes off.
Our company has not got a commissioned officer with it. They are wounded and sick and I shall have to lead the company in the fight. Whether I shall fall or not, I do not know but think I shall come out safe. This will not be as hard a fight as the Pittsburg [Landing] fight for the infantry. It will be more of an artillery fight. The woods and roads are completely strewn with rebel knapsacks and tents and clothing and a great many other things that the rebels threw away on their retreat from Pittsburg showing that they were in a hurry and we will soon give them another big scare.
Fear not for me, Sarah. God will protect me in the fight. The wound I got at Pittsburg has got well but it leaves a nice scar. But that is alright. I would love to see you and talk to you now. God bless you. It seems an age since I saw you. But Sarah, I often think of you and in the hour of battle, you are not forgotten, but were consolation to me. I think that Yorktown and Corinth will soon be in our hands and then I think the war will soon close and then I will come and see you and till then, God bless you and your friends.
My love and best regards to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family. I will write as soon after the battle as possible. It is almost impossible to get a letter here for some reason. This is the first letter from you since the battle. But I must close and Sarah, if I never meet you on earth, I hope to meet you in heaven. God bless you. Fear not for me. Write soon. I suppose you will soon be in Indianapolis. That is a beautiful place. No more from your soldier boy, — Norton W. Campbell
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
June 21, 1862
Dear Friend Sarah R.,
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. Well, I will say that Corinth was evacuated on the 29th of May and we followed the rebels till we could see nor hear nothing more of them. We returned to Corinth where we are now and from all appearances we will stay here for two or three months.
We had a hard march through Mississippi and suffered considerable for water. The roads were awful dusty and the weather very warm but our men kept up good spirits and done well. we will probably not have any more trouble in this part of the country with the rebels.
We have a very pretty place for our camp and the troops are in good health and glad to have a chance to have a little rest.
You say I do not write often. Well I wrote to you the 27th of May and again after the evacuation of Corinth but I suppose you did not get them. Sometimes I don’t get your letters till they are nearly a month on the way. But I suppose it was because we was moving around so much. You don’t think the war will be over soon but I guess you are getting downhearted. You must cheer up; hope for the best. I don’t think it will last much longer and God knows I wish it would not. But if the war lasts two years longer, I shall stay if I am alive and needed. I love to fight these butternuts. I want revenge. They have killed some of my best friends and came near getting me. And whenever I get a chance to fight them, here’s at them as long as I live if needed.
But still I would love to see you and many others. I would love to be with you the Fourth of July but it is not so that I can. But my heart is with you if I am not and God bless. Keep up good spirits and if McClellan does a good job at Richmond, I think the war is about done. Give my love and best respects to Mrs. Hebble and all the family and please write soon. God bless you all. No more.
From your friend, — Norton W. Campbell, command of Co. G